DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Metal And Nonmetal Mine Safety And Health
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Fall of Ground Accident
August 6, 2000
County Line Mine
Mt. Ida, Montgomery County, Arkansas
ID No. 03-01827
James M. Thomas
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Robert N. Capps
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Donald T. Kirkwood
Supervisory Civil Engineer
David L. Weaver
Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Mine Safety and Health Administration
South Central District
1100 Commerce St., Room 4C50
Dallas, Texas 75242-0499
Doyle D. Fink, District Manager
On August 6, 2000, Marley Phillip Michael Griffiths, age 7, was fatally injured when he was struck by material falling from the highwall. Griffiths was the son of the mine operator and had accompanied his father to the mine. He was retrieving quartz crystals near the base of the highwall when overburden fell on him from near the top of the highwall. The material struck the victim, knocking him to the ground where he struck his head on a rock.
The cause of the accident was the failure to strip the loose overburden back from the edge of the highwall. The failure to prevent untrained personnel from entering a hazardous location was a contributing factor. The lack of personal protective equipment contributed to the severity of the accident.
The County Line Mine, a quartz crystal mining operation, owned and operated by Bobby Fecho, was located in Ouachita National Forest, six miles east of Mt. Ida, Montgomery County, Arkansas. The principal operating official was Bobby Fecho. Fecho was the only miner at this operation and worked there occasionally in addition to his regular job.
Material was mined from the highwall with a Hein-Warner HW-C14 track excavator. No blasting had been done at this mine. The quartz crystals were hand-picked from the highwall and from the rock removed from the face. The quartz crystals were sold at rock shops in the area.
A regular inspection of this mine had never been conducted. Mine Safety and Health Administration had not been notified of the mine's existence until the accident was reported. Operations were not resumed following the accident. The operator has permanently closed the mine.
On the day of the accident, Bobby Fecho and Marley Griffiths (victim) arrived at the mine at approximately 9:30 am. Fecho proceeded to use the track excavator to work on the access road along the south side of the pit as directed by the Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture. While Fecho was doing this, Griffiths waited on the waste rock pile adjacent to this road.
When Fecho had completed the road work, he moved the excavator into the pit. Griffiths requested that the two of them look for new quartz crystals and Fecho ripped some rock from the highwall while Griffiths waited on the waste rock pile. After Fecho had ripped the rock from the highwall face, he instructed Griffiths to retrieve a couple of baskets and a steel bar so they could dig out newly uncovered crystals. While Griffiths was doing this, Fecho cleaned the highwall face in the area where he had just removed the rock.
When Griffiths returned with the baskets and the steel bar, Fecho proceeded to the left side of the excavator to turn the engine off. As Fecho started to mount the excavator, he heard Griffiths yell for him and turned to see material falling from the highwall. Fecho attempted to reach Griffiths and was struck by falling material, which resulted in his suffering a broken ankle. When Fecho reached the victim, he found that the falling material had knocked him to the ground where he struck his head on a rock. Fecho carried him to his truck and transported him to a nearby convenience store. An ambulance was summoned, but the victim was pronounced dead by the deputy coroner. Death was attributed to head trauma.
MSHA was notified of the accident at approximately 6:50 a.m. on August 7, 2000, by a telephone call from James Fecho, the victim's grandfather, to Larry D. Slycord, supervisory mine safety and health inspector. An investigation was started the same day. An inspector was dispatched to the accident scene from the Little Rock, Arkansas field office to secure the area. MSHA's accident investigation team arrived at the mine site on August 8, 2000, and made a physical inspection of the accident site, interviewed the operator, and reviewed information relative to the job being performed. An order was issued under the provisions of section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of miners.
� The accident occurred at the area known as the center pit, one of three small pits within the quarry. The highwall in each pit extended in the east-west direction along the north side of the pit. Broken rock and overburden were piled along the east, west and south sides of each of the pits.
� The center pit was much larger than the other pits and was advanced north into the side of the hill. The highwall extended approximately 170 feet in the east-west direction. At the location of the accident, approximately 70 feet from the west end, the highwall height was measured at 13 feet 3 inches.
� A road was located north of the center pit. As the center pit had been extended toward the north, it had encroached on this road and the road was no longer passable. A road was being constructed along the south side of the center pit to replace this road. The new road was being constructed with waste rock from the center pit.
� The top of the exposed highwall had a layer of sandy, gray, hard unconsolidated overburden material a few inches to two feet thick. The gray overburden material beneath the old road surface was very hard, resembling soft rock. Just beneath this gray layer was a brown clay layer which also varied in thickness from a few inches to three feet. The brown clay overburden was very dry and clumped together. It appeared that when this brown clay fell from the highwall, it remained in clumps. When it impacted a rock on the pit floor, it would break into many small pieces.
� Beneath these two layers of overburden was hard gray sandstone. The fracture planes within the sandstone were coated with a brown stain from the overlying layer. The sandstone extended from the base of the brown clay to the pit floor.
� Several seams and pockets of clay material could be seen within the gray sandstone. A persistent light purple-shaded clay seam undulated through the sandstone face along the length of the pit. The quartz crystals, which were being mined, were found at various locations within the gray sandstone and brown clay layers. The larger quartz crystals primarily occurred in clay pockets within the rock fractures in the sandstone.
� A Hein-Warner, HW-C14 track excavator was the only equipment at this mine. At the time of the accident, the excavator was in the center pit, facing the highwall with the bucket on the ground and located approximately six feet from the base of the highwall. The rock from the highwall was ripped and pulled down with the bucket of the excavator. The quartz crystals were then picked from the loose rock on the pit floor. After the excavated rock had been inspected for quartz crystals, the broken rock was moved to the waste pile on the south side of the pit with the excavator.
� The mine was permitted to Bobby Fecho by the Forest Service on May 1, 1997. The total mine permit covered approximately ten acres and was located in Section 36, Township 2S, Range 23W, Montgomery County, Arkansas.
The root cause of the accident was the failure to strip the loose overburden back from the edge of the highwall. The failure to prevent untrained personnel from entering a hazardous location was a contributing factor. The lack of personal protective equipment contributed to the severity of the accident.
Order No. 7891534 was issued on August 7, 2000, under provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act.
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on August 6, 2000, when the son of the mine owner was digging quartz crystals near the north high wall. This order is issued to assure the safety of all persons at this operation. It prohibits all activity in the area of the main pit and high wall until MSHA has determined that it is safe to resume normal mining operations in these areas. The mine operator shall obtain prior approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover and/or to restore operations in the affected area.This order was terminated on October 5, 2000, after the Forest Service provided notice that it had withdrawn the permit for use of the land by the operator.
Citation No. 7876284 was issued on September 22, 2000, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.3131:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on August 6, 2000 when the son of the mine owner was digging quartz crystals near the north high wall and was struck by a fall of ground. The overburden at the north high wall had not been stripped back to prevent the material from falling into the pit area.This citation was terminated on October 5, 2000, after the operator provided written notice of intent to permanently abandon the mine.
Citation No. 7876285 was issued on September 22, 2000, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.15002:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on August 6, 2000 when the son of the mine owner was digging quartz crystals near the north high wall and was struck by a fall of ground. The fall of ground resulted in the boy receiving severe head injuries. The victim was not wearing a hard hat.This citation was terminated on September 22, 2000. On August 27, 2000, the owner received annual refresher training, including the required use of a hard hat at the mine.
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
A. Persons Participating in the Investigation
B. Persons Interviewed
Bob Fecho, County Line Mine
Bobby Fecho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ownerForest Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Bob Raines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . district rangerMontgomery County Sheriff's Department
Gary West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . law enforcement
Kathy Nichols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .law enforcement
John M. Ball . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .deputy sheriffOthers
Mike May . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .deputy sheriff
James Fecho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .grandfather of victimMine Safety and Health Administration
Kathy Fecho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .grandmother of victim
Kathy Stanley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .aunt of victim
Carl Andrew Rubly . . . . . . . . . . . . .employee of James Fecho
James M. Thomas . . . . . . . . . . . . .supervisory mine safety and health inspector
Robert N. Capps . . . . . . . . . . . . . .mine safety and health inspector
Donald T. Kirkwood . . . . . . . . . . .supervisory civil engineer
David L. Weaver . . . . . . . . . . . . . .mine safety and health specialist
Bob Fecho, County Line Mine
Bobby Fecho . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ownerOthers
James Fecho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . grandfather of victim